A night by the woods

It is said that the purpose of going to a resort is re-sort one’s mind which gets scrappy in the rat race for existence. We spent a fortune going to posh resorts with swimming pools, wellness centre, and scads of non-natural amenities. But there exist some veiled gems where you can re-sort your mind naturally. You can live amidst wilderness, swim in babbling brooks, detoxify feasting on organic meals, trek through the woods, hurry past wild elephants, listen to chirping birds and finally emerge rejuvenated. Illathu Homestay is such a place. 2 days spent here will linger for ever in my memories. Illathu Homestay is located at Thirunelly, a small village in North Wayanad. The homestay is located one kilometer from the famous Thirunelly Temple.

Y Junction

Y Junction

On the Manathavady-Mysore road drive down 10 kilometers and you are at Kattikulam..About 10km from Kattikullam, you will reach a Y junction. The straight road (main road) goes to Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala-Karnataka border and Kutta. Take the left road called Thetturoad, which finally ends at Thirunelli,

View from appapaara

Appapara a view

The road is narrow, full or curves and bends and there are ups and downs on the road. Beware of elephant herds on this road. Keep away from them because they are the most ferocious and mischievous lots found in Wayanad; they usually drift away from you. (Hopefully!).

Hosts At Illath Homestay

Hosts At Illath Homestay

From Thirunelly Temple you drive down south west pass tribal settlements, and you are at Illathu Homestay You will be welcomed by a friendly couple – Sukumaranunni , and his wife Saraswathi.

Scenic Illath Organic farm

With the Brahmagiri hills on the North, the Narinirangi hills on the South, the Udayagiri hills on the East and the Karimala hills on the West, and located by the gurgling river Kalindi, originating from the Brahmagiri hills you are in one of the exotic location in Wayanad.

The cottage amidst wilderness

The cottage amidst wilderness

The cottage located amidst a plantation, is a bit away from the hosts residence thus providing you complete privacy. After spending a major chunk of time in the asphalt jungle of Cochin it was delightful to plunge into this endless verdure, feel the breath of fresh air on face, have a walk on winding forest paths, bask along the scenic organic farm, all the time listening to the sounds of singing birds and bubbling river.

River Kalindi meandering by

River Kalindi meandering by

Here you are away from the maddening crowd away from the constant ringing of your cell phones, emails, Internet and newspapers. You can live your dreams, of a peaceful life, close to nature, close to God, and above all close to yourself. This place is surely inspired by nature and its charismatic beauty ensures your comfort.

From the cottage balcony

From the cottage balcony

The view from the balcony can be described as “simply out of the world “. It offers the perfect view of the surrounding organic farm, forest and mist clad hills.

View from the cottage

View from the cottage

After visiting the Thirunelly temple and an adventurous night drive through the forest path as a pillion on my host’s motorbike, I sat alone in the balcony overlooking the deep jungles listening to the bewitching sounds of dark night forest and the murmuring sound of river Kalindhi. Though it was creepy i was terribly curious and happy.

The pristine waters are tempting

The pristine waters of Kalindhi river is tempting

Crickets, owl screech, dog or real wolf howls, elephants, tigers and leopards– all this you can find here. I closed my eyes and let my imagination work. Lucky are all those departed souls who attained liberation in this holy land, because of the obeisance performed by their dear ones at Thirunelli. I could feel them around blessing me to free my soul from all its sins.These are the interesting and captivating moments of life.

Misty Morning - A view from the balcony

Misty Morning – A view from the balcony

Nothing to do and it is time to hit the bed. Next day early morning I have to be at the temple for performing ancestral rites.Call it nyctophobia, sceleropobia orphasmophobia,  I preferred to leave one light switched on.Every sound made me start, causing me to curl up further under my blankets. I cocooned myself in the blanket, pulling it up over my head and drifted off to sleep, to be awakened early morning by the sound of trumpeting elephants.

Woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promise to keep

And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep

Robert Frost

Running The Treasure Trove – Reality behind

Starting your own business in the hospitality industry is always a huge decision which is prone to lots of risks. No doubt the decision is rewarding when you succeed.

Running a hospitality business successfully doesn’t mean your guests are always nice, accommodating, less demanding, generous and well behaved. We have been involved in the industry for approx 4 years running our home-stay cottages The Treasure Trove, I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I’d like to voice my observations.

The Treasure Trove (www.treasuretrovewayanad.com)

The Treasure Trove (www.treasuretrovewayanad.com)

Many are of the wrong notion that scores of excellent reviews in leading travel portals means that things are rosy-rosy and we are having a great time with the guests and things can be taken for granted. The photos of our guests that we post in our Facebook page with comments and likes from our guests further fuel the thought this business is glitter-glitter everywhere!

With Shivya Nath acclaimed worldwide as on of the best travel blogger. Shivya a glob trotter played a significant role in our success through her social enterprise India Untravelled. Shivya currently is exploring the country sides of Romania

With Shivya Nath acclaimed worldwide as on of the best travel blogger. Shivya a glob trotter played a significant role in our success through her social enterprise India Untravelled. Shivya currently is exploring the country sides of Romania

On the other hand the truth is that right from the time of arrival to departure of the guest we are under constant pressure and sometime the pressure is so intense that we get thoroughly stressed. Many times putting aside our personal problems, commitments and setbacks we had to be cheerful and make our guests comfortable. Our family commitments and responsibilities takes a back seat and many occasions we had face the wrath of our close rellies. It’s a very serious business behind the scenes.

Wonderful family of Fyonna Margaret, Freya, Heidi and Paul Howard from United Kindom. They were the most accommodating and generous guests we ever had. Though we messed up with their bookings they readily accepted our arrangements happily.

Wonderful family of Fyonna Margaret, Freya, Heidi and Paul Howard from United Kindom. They were the most accommodating and generous guests we ever had. Though we messed up with their bookings they readily accepted our arrangements happily.

Occasionally we had to handle everything from housekeeping to serving the food to cleaning the cottages and toilets. In fact, taking multiple roles we experienced a steep learning curve that we enjoyed thoroughly.

Anoop V Kartha and family from Cochin

Anoop V Kartha and family from Cochin

The cleanliness of the cottages, the quality of food we serve, having amenities guests want, and our business model took us so far. In the hospitality business, such things are the decisive factors. If you don’t have them, you won’t survive for very long. The fact that a minute flaw on our part can throw the guest awry is always intimidating.

With Vijay Venugopal and Aswathy Vijay from Trivandrum

With Vijay Venugopal and Aswathy Vijay from Trivandrum

We have been hosting guests of different nationality, religion, race, caste, creed and profess.  Most of them are really ardent travelers who have stayed in different hotels, resorts and B&B’ all over the world. A major chunk of them were really nice people who appreciated our business model and were generous enough to post excellent positive reviews in leading travel portals and lovely piece of writings in their blogs. Their feedback’s and comments helped us in improving the quality of our service.

John Darlington, Chairman National Trust, UK and Sophia Darlington wildlife cinematographer who do freelances for BBC and Animal Planet with their family.

John Darlington, Chairman National Trust, UK and Sophia Darlington wildlife cinematographer who do freelances for BBC and Animal Planet with their family.

Some of them were generous enough to forgive our slip-up of messing up with the bookings during peak seasons and readily accepted the alternate arrangement we made for them.

Paayal Sethi of FilmKaaravan

Paayal Sethi of FilmKaaravan

We always put an emphasis on personal relationships. We successfully built strong relationships with international and domestic guests with staying in touch with them throughout the year, sending Christmas wishes, and emails to guests just to see how they were doing and fill them in on what was going on in our lives.  This helped us in getting repeat customers. The coming weekend we would be hosting a couple from Bangalore, who had stayed at our place two years back.

With Leslie Klein and family from Tel Aviv

With Leslie Klein and family from Tel Aviv

More than 50% of our  new customers was through referrals. As we built a relationship with each guest, they referred their relatives and friends to our place.

GVK Senior Correspondent, The Times of India, popularized us through his blog and short videos uploaded in Youtube

GVK Senior Correspondent, The Times of India, popularized us through his blog and short videos uploaded in Youtube

But we have had to handle occasionally an irate or down-right rude guest or two.

Some guests are reputed to be troublesome, nasty or arrogant. Their inconvenient behavior can really undermine our moral and even put an end to our enthusiasm! In this business the need to be skilled in dealing with angry guests is of utmost importance, as they are probably the worst part of this business.

We have been running this business for almost 4 years and this is how we have been dealing with nasty customer.

  • Always remain calm, before an angry guest! Be patient and listen to him.
  • To become argumentative and confront them, will not sort out the problem, it will definitely make things worse and make other guests uncomfortable.
  • When dealing with a rude or angry customer never resort to a word war.
  • Some guests can get very nasty with throwing insults at you. It can be very tempting to begin throwing insults right back at them. No matter what it takes, resist this temptation. If you are the owner, you could forever ruin your reputation and more business, especially if the customer has lots of friends and influence.

None of this works if you are not genuine. People can tell when you care, are serious about building relationships, and you are giving your best.

Reena Sunil the hostess at The Treasure Trove with Henia Goldberg a clinical psychologist and Shafi a business consultant from Tel Aviv.

Reena Sunil the hostess at The Treasure Trove with Henia Goldberg a clinical psychologist and Shafi a business consultant from Tel Aviv.

The real success in Hospitality host industry is the ability to deal with unsatisfied, rude and arrogant customers.

Pertii Salmi and family from Finland.

Pertii Salmi and family from Finland.

These lessons are among the many we have learned from running this business. I hope that in sharing them, they will help you grow as an individual and a successful hospitality entrepreneur as much as they have helped us.

Team Treasure Trove

Team Treasure Trove